We Are All Digital Tourists, but Are All Digital Tourists the Same?: Characterization of Digital Tourists Based on Technology Use

We Are All Digital Tourists, but Are All Digital Tourists the Same?: Characterization of Digital Tourists Based on Technology Use

Francesc González-Reverté (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain) and Daniel Liviano-Solís (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9928-9.ch014

Abstract

As the sharing economy is transforming the profile, preferences, and expectations of travel and tourism demand, technology becomes an essential element in understanding how tourists change their behavior and consumption patterns. The digital nature of tourism is determined by 1) analogical by digital tourism useful equipment (TUE), 2) a high acceptance of technology, and 3) a high assessment of the tourist experience obtained through mobile devices (MD). Using a sample of 450 tourists in Barcelona, this chapter tries to identify profiles of digital tourists with different degrees of TUE usage. Findings show that digital tourists are characterized by the combination of the use of MD with other TUE. This method could be of great value for managers that want to gain understanding of the characteristics of digital tourists. The study makes a contribution by proposing a classification of digital tourists based on the use of technology supporting the tourist experience. Besides, different patterns of tourist behavior are distinguished depending on the use they make of their mobile devices.
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Introduction

The sharing economy is transforming the profile, preferences and expectations of travel and tourism demand. On the one hand, technology is an essential element in understanding how tourists change their behaviour and consumption patterns (Buhalis & O'Connor, 2005). On the other hand, the presence of cultures of connection, where common goals and interests are shared, is considered another key feature of the sharing economy. The creation of network cultures with a degree of connectivity, which is also dependent on technology, is a key element in the emergence of consumers’ collaborative strategies (Gymóthy, 2017). In tourism, this is exemplified by the communities of travelers, which express opinions and travel preferences through the creation and consumption of digital content in social networks (Amaro, Duarte & Henriques, 2016). Co-creating experiences is another manifestation, often mediated by technology, of adapting to the current needs of tourists. Through co-creation, the traditional relationship between consumers and producers changes. Co-created experiences are shared between tourists or other actors, thus avoiding unidirectionality in the provision of experiences: from business to consumer (Neuhofer, Buhalis & Ladkin, 2012). Understanding how tourists differ in the use of technology, and how they use it to share experiences and content, is a key issue to better capture their behavior in the tourist destination, as well as to understand their ability to influence the rest of members of travelers’ communities. In this study, tourists are characterized in terms of the use of technology (mobile devices) for tourist purposes. This allows us to identify specific profiles which show both the preferences and the risks or rejection of the use of technology (González et al 2018). In the end, these profiles show behaviors that are potentially related to the contemporary way of making tourism raised by the sharing economy.

The extension of the use of technology for tourism purposes is related to the emergence of a new class of digital tourist. This kind of consumer can easily access information and share views, comments and suggestions in an informal and collaborative way, thereby increasing their value and gaining greater power of influence over the choices made by other consumers (Miguéns, Baggio & Costa, 2008).

However, the concept of digital tourists has barely been debated or indeed identified as a distinct social category. Some authors consider that digital tourists are characterized by relying on information technology in general and, in particular, on MD technologies and networks for building their travel experiences (Lamsfus et al., 2015). Similarly, Gretzel et al. (2017) state that the new tourist is not solely characterized by relying on a single type of instrument or technology, but rather he/she is a hybrid tourist who uses different channels and technologies to obtain the information he/she needs. Despite efforts by certain academics to undertake some conceptual approaches to the issue of digital tourists, few empirical attempts have been made to characterize and define this type of tourist on the basis of their daily tourism practices. The purpose of our research is to provide empirical evidence on how tourists use technology when visiting a tourist destination, to enable us to develop an accurate profiling of digital tourists. Our proposal is to examine any differences that may exist between tourists who use technology during their visits to the city of Barcelona so that we can then distinguish digital tourist profiles and check whether they form a homogeneous or heterogeneous social group. The results obtained will allow us to initiate a debate around the concept of digital tourists and the way in which tourist destinations are marketed, one example of which is

the Smart Tourism Destination, which is based on an intensive use of technologies and links attractions and experiences to technology-dependent products.

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